There was a time not too long ago when the words ‘self-released artist’ could be otherwise interpreted as caveat emptor: generally (but not exclusively) the bastion of the unreleasable, who foist their caterwauling on the populace anyway.
Now that technology has put affordable music production and distribution in reach of most, being self-released is shorthand for something entirely different. Artists are lauded for the chutzpah shown in eschewing lop-sided label deals and forging ahead on their own terms. Even the mightiest of music deities look down longingly from their gilded cages and wish for a simpler life of making music, unencumbered by their groaning bank accounts (or as Chris ‘Coldplay’ Martin would have it, “On my deathbed, someone will come up and say ‘You still owe me three records.’” The poor wee poppet.)
Anna Coddington is one of those taking that now more-frequently-travelled path with her debut album, The Lake. Having made contributions to Bic Runga’s and Anika Moa’s most recent albums, Coddington has had a ringside seat when it comes to the artist/label relationship. “I just decided it’s better to not rely on anybody else to ‘prioritise’ me or hold anybody else responsible for what happens with my music,” she says.
The Lake is a culmination of nearly two years’ development, which has required funding from herself, contra arrangements with other musicians (“I like that,” Coddington says, “it seems more direct and personal than a money transaction”), as well as funding and support from Creative NZ, NZ On Air and distributors Rhythmethod (whose enviable track record includes Fat Freddy’s Drop and Flight Of The Conchords).
Coddington’s music mines a similar vein to those Runga and Moa albums: a rustic, quasi-country-rock vibe with a rich and breathy voice delivering bitter-sweet lyrics. Superb musicianship and production from all concerned make The Lake an enjoyable listen, while NZ On Air’s funding of the first single ‘Hold You Here’ would seem to be a good choice—the song has radio hit written all over it.
As anyone in indie music will testify, marketing albums on the smell of an oily rag can be an arduous exercise. At the same time, it demands a level of business creativity that will prove valuable for the future. In this respect, Coddington’s own expectations for the album have already been met, as the album’s release now serves as a platform to launch the next phase of her career. Going by the class on evidence here, it’s a gamble that should pay dividends.